Space “A” …The Misery and the Glory!

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Boeing 747-400 with 464 passengers on board

Space “A” the ultimate travel method. Well, not so easy, but worth it? This journey from Aviano started some twenty four hours ago, back in Aviano. Another dry run to the airport to see if any changes happened to the flight. Already, it had been bumped a whole day back and now scheduled later in the day. Before I continue my recollection of the return to America, I must tell you a little background rumor about the Patriate or Rotator flight. Several things have happened to upset the quote “normal” schedule.

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Interior view of the Coach Section

Let me start first by saying the hurricane back east has delayed some flights over the North Atlantic. This, followed by a bird strike on one aircraft has caused the B747-400 to be replaced by a 767-300, which automatically reduced seats by one hundred. From 464 seat on the 747 to 300 or so on the Boeing 767-300. Now these issues would be enough to put a wrench in the wheel, but here is the kicker! You’ve probably all heard of the problems in Syria. With the Russians air strikes and now possible Russian ground troops being involved! Well, if you look at the map, there is one country that sits between Russia and Syria. That is Turkey. We have an Air Base in Incrikit, Turkey. We have a base there and some dependants are voluntarily leaving. This takes away more Space “A” seats. The “A” stands for available! OK, back to the terminal and the long afternoon wait for roll call. On the leader board, it said 31 seats available for Rammstein and 39 seats for BWI back in Baltimore, MD. For some screwed up reason we didn’t get manifested to BWI, but only to Rammstein AFB in Germany. I decided to risk it and take a chance in Rammstein. There are more flights out of Rammstein than any other bases in Europe.

After boarding in Aviano, the plane stayed on the tarmac for a long time. Finally, two AMC (Air Mobility Command) personnel did an empty seat count and left. Twenty or so minutes later they came in again and took all Aviano passengers boarding names. This time I asked the female staff NCO what was going on. She said there had been a mistake and possible double booking. I said, “Will we be able to get manifested for BWI in Rammstein?” “Yes”, she said.

RAMSTEIN AIR FORCE BASE:

Immediately after landing, all passengers going to BWI were told to get off first. Than all passengers getting off at Rammstein were let off the plane. Next came German custom’s, baggage claim and so on. Every time the line of passengers took more time getting through. Finally, we were back at the AMC counter trying to book to BWI, to no avail! We had missed our own “Roll Call”. The plane was full!

THE DILEMMA!

What to do now? It was after 10pm. Nothing is open! The terminal building closed at 10 pm! The approximately ten of us were starting to pool our thinking together. One couple was thinking of hiding out in the restrooms over night! Another couple was thinking of going to the USO club, but this also was closing. We asked the AMC staff what we should do, but no suggestions from them. We couldn’t spend the night outside. The night air was cold and a thick fog was developing. The hotel lobby, we were told, didn’t allow overnight sitting or sleeping. The large hotel, across the street is also the Air Force Lodging Inn. It was our only hope! Most of us headed across the street and into the lobby. No rooms were available here, but some were elsewhere, but they were on the other side of base nearly three quarters a mile away and no taxi or shuttles running. The terminal building would be opening at 2:30 am for some early flight roll calls. Most of us, sat down in the many hotel lobby chairs for the wait until the terminal building would open again. Oh, I should also mention that we weren’t the only stranded passengers. I’d say maybe three dozen or more were sleeping in chairs, on the floor and where ever they could be comfortable.

THE LONG NIGHT!

Around 2am people begin to stir and rise! We started hearing many stories of their experiences, most of them not so pleasant! All of this stemmed from what I described early on in this blog. Our problems seemed so minor compared to those refugees coming out of the Middle East and North Africa. No, none of them were encountered in our travels in Europe.

2:30am… The terminal building was now opened! Upstairs is the location of the USO club. This club is setup for anyone in the military, past or present. Now here you can get drinks, cookies, coffee and nice recliners to sleep and rest snd so fort.

ROLL CALLS!

Here is the catch on Space “A”. The tv leader monitor scrolls with flight info coming and going. There are many, many military flights going literally all over the world. Some have Space “A” seats available and some don’t. All of this info is on the monitor and also on Facebook! The problem is that they would say, for example, Flight to BWI in Baltimore…Roll at 03:15am. You go to sleep thinking your going to get a little shut eye before 3:15 am. The monitor gets updated and now the roll call is at 2:30am. They call your name and you don’t come to the desk, you get a second chance, no answer, your name goes to the bottom of the list for that flight only! Later that morning you could be higher on the list depending when you signed up by email. Printing your email gives you proof of signup time up to 60 days! It can get complicated! If it were very easy, the military would drop this type of travel on their mission duty side.

WHERE WE STAND AND THE FLIGHT HOME!

Around 9:30 am, we have missed two flights going to BWI, but I was still nearly at the bottom of the list. I had two viable flight options: One roll call at 9:15 am for BWI on the Rotator. (This is a commercial cilivian aircraft contracted by the government). The second option was a 9:30 roll call to McGuire AFB in New Jersey with a final destination of Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee Massachusetts. This was very close to home, a real tempting flight for sure. Here is where you have to read between the lines. The aircraft is a C5 “B” model owned by a Reserve Air Guard Unit! An older model plagued by mechanical problems. As a matter of fact, this aircraft had been boarded and ready for a mission home when mechanical issues caused multiple cancellations. The last one was when a crew member broke her foot. Ok, enough! We made the first roll call to BWI. Helen and I where the last to get on the list! Tired, but happy! It gets better! Our seat assignments 03H and 04H. we get on the plane, thinking we had to walk to the back of the plane to Letter O and seat 3 and 4 H. No! It was zero 3H and 4H…First Class! The steward talked to us before take off and explained how the price structure work; Coach, Business Class, First Class, International First Class and Global First Class. I am writing this blog in a seat that cost $8,000.00 dollars a piece! Amenities such as recliner bed, WiFi, computer chargers, cell phone hookups, hot towels, drinks and upscale food are just a fraction of the upgrade!

Being the last two boarding, we landed with the two best seats!

Being the last two boarding, we landed with the two best seats!

I’m tired now and taking a nap! See you in Baltimore! The “Adventure” continues!!

That is what we did and saw!

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